The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 5 (September 1, 1927)
No Reduction in Employees
No Reduction in Employees.
Almost every increase in railway efficiency that has been accomplished has reduced the number of hours of human labour required to produce a given number of ton miles and passenger miles, but this has never actually resulted, excepting temporarily, in a reduction of the total number of employees. There was a large increase in their number during and immediately following the war, owing to the general introduction of the 8-hour day and other causes, and a correspondingly large reduction as a result of the industrial depression and the increase in the efficiency of operation which followed the return of the railroads to private management. In 1926, however, the number of employees of the Class I railroads of the United States was larger than in any other year in history, excepting the war years and in 1923, when it was affected by the results of the shop employees' strike of 1922.
Excepting under abnormal conditions increases in railway output per employee, resulting from page 25 more efficient operation, have been offset by increases in the total amount of traffic to be handled. There would have been a much larger increase in traffic, and consequently in the number of employees required, within recent years, if so much freight and passenger business had not been diverted from the railroads to other means of transportation, the effectiveness of which in competing with the railroads has been mainly due to government expenditures on highways and waterways.
The relations between a railroad and its employees are primarily business relations. The railroad hires every man on its payroll for its own business purposes, and every man on the payroll hires to it to get as much wages as he can. Therefore, when the management proposes to the employees that they shall do certain things to increase efficiency it is reasonably to be expected that the employees will want to know how they will be benefited by doing these things, just as when the employees ask for higher wages they should reasonably expect that the managements will ask what the employees are doing or intend to do, or what conditions exist, to justify paying them more. There is a valid reason that the management can always give why employees should support them in every practicable way increasing efficiency, and this is the one I have tried to illustrate by the citation of facts of railway economic history-namely, that in the long run much the greater part of the benefits of every form of increased efficiency in transportation and production go to the workers in the form of better and safer working conditions and of wages that will increase their purchasing power. It is because labour generally does not know this that we often find it harmfully antagonistic to more efficient machinery and methods.